4 mins

What are you doing to make the world a better place?

We asked the travel industry's leading experts what they're doing to make this world a better one

What are you doing to make the world a better place? (Kenneth Lu)

Hilary Bradt, Founder of Bradt Travel Guides

I’ll travel! I don’t buy into the guilt trip about flying. If I refuse to fly it won’t make the slightest difference to global warming, but if I make one friend abroad – even briefly – I am making a very small contribution to cultural understanding. And if when I travel I can make a bigger contribution, by becoming involved in a local charity, that’s even better.

Sankha Guha, Presenter & Travel writer

Travel is so easy that we tend to forget it is a privilege. One that should be granted only to those who have a genuine curiosity about where they are going and who show some respect when they get there. Sadly there is a breed of holidaymaker whose priorities are to hog the sunshine and get plastered in someone else’s patch of Eden – loudly. I will be lobbying to have their passports revoked.

Dea Birkett, Travel writer

Keep travelling! Travel has become a dirty word, with many implying it’s more ethical to stay at home. It’s time for travellers to stand up for their passion – unless people from different cultures meet and trade, they will never understand each other.

Mark Carwardine, Zoologist & presenter

I’m the first to congratulate an outstanding guide or an environmentally friendly tour operator. But I tend to go quiet and sulk if things aren’t as they should be. Well, no longer. I’ve decided to speak out loud and clear when I see examples of poor-quality ecotourism. I am increasingly frustrated by the growing number of so-called ‘ecotrips’ being run by companies merely jumping on the environmental gravy train. Many show little or no respect for wildlife and have no educational element. So, in 2007, I’ll do less sulking and more complaining.

Pen Hadow, Polar explorer

In less than 20 years from now, the North Pole ice cap may be so thinned by human-induced global warming that guided tours to the North Pole by boat may well exist. The local charismatic mega-fauna – polar bears and walrus – will be all but extinct by then. I will urge people to talk the talk less, and walk the walk at every opportunity – to reduce your carbon footprint and be an inspiration to those around you. The time is now.

Mark Ellingham, Founder/series editor, Rough Guides
I’ll be looking to follow Rough Guides’ advice: fly less, stay longer. The volume of flights is unsustainable and casual flying – going to Marrakesh or Prague for the weekend, for example – isn’t something I can square with my conscience. That said, I do want to go somewhere new on a good, long trip. I like the idea of taking a look at Madagascar, where tourism can play a real part in sustaining the country’s forests and natural resources.

David Shukman, Environment & science correspondent, BBC

I’ll listen more to my kids. They’re asking harder questions about how, where and why we travel. Like everyone, they want to see the world, but they also want to see our planet in the best possible shape for the duration of their lifetimes and beyond.

Chris Stewart, Author

It would be rather trite to say I am staying at home as I shan’t be. I would also like to say that I shan’t be using air travel, but I know that will soon fall by the wayside too – though I am moving towards that happy state. Actually I love flying, as it’s about the only opportunity one ever gets to read in peace. So this New Year I’m thinking of ditching the car and getting a mule. I know this is not an option open to everybody, but it’s a fairly common one here in Andalucía.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, ‘Easy’ entrepreneur

I’m not being facetious when I say that I’m going to keep flying easyJet. It has one of the world’s youngest fleets, with an average age of 2.2 years – much more fuel efficient than some of the old gas-guzzlers in the air.

Ken Hames, Expedition leader & TV presenter

I definitely intend to be, and promote being, environmentally aware and having a sensitive approach to travel. You have to ask yourself the questions: “What effect does my presence have on the people, environment and wildlife, and what can I do to help by being there or when I get back?” In 2007 I will be working closely with Born Free Foundation and Tusk Trust helping to raise awareness and looking at initiatives to enhance protection of wildlife and endangered species.

Anousheh Ansari, Space traveller

I will try to speak with young students in every country I visit to encourage them to think freely and dream big. I will also try to learn at least one thing about the culture of each country I visit. I want to understand the diversity of the world and be able to show others how these diversities can be cherished.

Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development

I do need to travel – to visit developing countries and negotiate at international meetings – so I’m pleased that greenhouse gas emissions from all official travel, by myself and Department for International Development staff, is now offset to support energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects in developing countries.

Michael Palin, Author & TV presenter

I’m making a new series about Eastern Europe for Autumn 2007 because I enjoy travelling, meeting people and seeing the world from different perspectives. I very much doubt if it will make the world a better place, but at least it helps to talk to people!

Alain de Botton, Author

In 2007 I’ll be doing my best to holiday locally – that is, within easy reach of my home. It’s astonishing how much there is to see on my doorstep.

Tony Wheeler, Founder of Lonely Planet

Apart from a healthy dose of personal guilt I don’t have any answers to the world’s environmental problems but, politically, I’m writing a book about some of the world’s ‘Axis of evil’ nations – the line that there’s two sides to every story was never more true.

Saba Douglas-Hamilton, Wildlife TV presenter

Until recently I’ve been a bit of an ostrich, with my head in the sand about global warming. But now I understand fully the threat of climate chaos, I consider further inaction on my part to be morally negligent. I’m going to do what it takes to be carbon-neutral for the rest of my life. Greening-up is like contributing to the war effort and requires small but dedicated acts of eco-kindness. I’m still stumped as to where I’ll find an electric or hybrid 4WD that can actually drive off-road in Africa, but apart from that, the relief of being able to give something back to the planet is exhilarating.

John Craven, Presenter

I wouldn’t be able to present BBC One’s Countryfile programme without clocking up thousands of miles a year – every week I’m in a different part of the UK. I often go by train and my vow for 2007 is to let those relatively eco-friendly trains take even more of the strain.

Simon Reeve, Author & broadcaster

I’ll be flying for pleasure a lot less. I can – just about – justify it for work if I’m working on a worthy project, but with everything we know about the environmental impact, zipping off to Barcelona for a weekend is now out of the question. It’s really tough, because I love short breaks and long-haul holidays, but I’m just going to have to start re-discovering the joys of home and taking breaks in places I can reach by train.


Virginia McKenna OBE, Born Free Foundation co-founder & actress

As travellers, doors will always open to new experiences, many of which can involve the use of captive animals. To ensure we have a minimal impact on their wellbeing, do not support any activity where they are made to perform tricks, are paraded on beaches, or used as photographic props. Animals have amazing attributes; they need to be respected and understood, instead of being forced to entertain us. When you see them in their natural environment you will understand at once that this is where they should remain. That is the experience you will never forget.

Ranulph Fiennes, Adventurer

I will be travelling within Zimbabwe to help promote wild lion and rhinoceros survival in the country.

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